RuPaul’s Drag Race season 5 champion Jinkx Monsoon has always been a fan favourite for their* lovable demeanour and cabaret infused personality. Since snatching the crown in 2013, they have released 2 albums, toured their cabaret show Vaudevillians and hit the stage in Hairspray and Hedwig. It’ll soon be monsoon season in London as Jinkx will be appearing at Drag World, the UK best drag convention, 18-19 August. We’re giving away a pair of tickets – be sure to check out twitter to see how you can get your grubby little mitts on them.
We have questions. Jinkx has answers.
TRASH: What was your lightbulb moment? What did you experience that made you know that Drag was the right path for you?
JINKX: There was a performance I did in my hometown at an annual fundraiser that the queens in Portland put on to give scholarships to queer college students. I talked two friends from my college into traveling to Portland with me to be my backup dancers. We did a routine to “All That Jazz” from Chicago, which I sang live. It was a humble, but tight and entertaining performance, and the audience was so receptive, that I knew in that moment, that drag was the ultimate culmination of everything I love about being onstage, and I had chosen the right medium for my trejectory. This was confirmed when I played Velma Von Tussle in the 10 year anniversary of Hairspray. I was able to combine my comic sensibility, musical prowess, love for theater, and expressing my femininity all into one performance. Drag allows me to do all of this, every time I perform.
Why do you think Drag is suddenly being accepted and explored by mainstream culture?
I think because Drag Race has created a non-threatening, endearing, and entertaining introduction to the queer community for non-queer audiences. I think seeing the people behind the personas have allowed our audiences to see into the heart and soul of drag- that it’s entertaining, but it’s also a powerful statement, and it allows people to claim their own identities in spite of social constructs around gender and self expression.
Does drag appealing to a larger audience take anything away from its close-nit community?
I think some queens miss the days of drag being underground, and punk rock, and inherently a little politically incorrect. However, I don’t think all of that has to be a bad thing. When you take something from the underground and adapt it for a mainstream audience, you have to update it to current day social consciousness. I think there’s still room for being politically incorrect if you’re doing it with purpose. There’s a difference between satire and being an a-hole. Shock for the sake of shock doesn’t interest me, but shock for the purpose of changing people’s mind to be more progressive and plugged in is impressive. I think if you can’t find a way to express yourself while still being socially responsible and conscious, then you should re-examine why you’re performing.
In a changing landscape in terms of gender-fluidity, what does the future hold for drag? What’s the next evolutionary step?
I think drag has taken huge steps towards inclusivity and breaking down social constructs around gender. I think gender is one of the most institutionally oppressive constructs that we have to operate within, and can often times be extremely damaging to the self esteem of anyone who doesn’t inherently fit the socially accepted mold. At the end of the day, everyone’s just people. How you choose to express yourself and your gender identity shouldn’t determine your worth to your community. That should be defined by your actions. I think drag strips away preconceived notions, and allows all the talking to be done by the performance and the presentation.
How do you think Drag Kings could be integrated into RuPaul’s Drag Race?
I have met many Drag Kings who put a huge amount of work into the larger than life transformation that drag entails. I think there would be ways to design challenges that don’t rely on the feminine side of drag. On the other hand, in the drag world, most Drag King and Drag Queen pageants are separate competitions- and I would love to see a Drag King competition show come next. Ultimately I think we need more queer programming for us, by us, so that more representations of the queer community can be represented in the mainstream. No one show should have to speak on behalf of the entire queer community, as we are a diverse, multifaceted community, with many different stories to tell.
R Lowe is currently playing Mary Sunshine in Chicago on Broadway in drag. If you could play any musical character who would it be? Who would you play in drag? And who would you play out of drag? And why?
It has always been my dream to end up on broadway. My all time dream role is Mrs. Lovett from Sweeney Todd. I have always had a desire to show audiences that cross gender casting is a brilliant way to find new perspectives on classic characters and archetypes. I think that a person of any gender identity can effectively portray a role of any gender, if they connect with the material and have a true passion for the performance.
Who is the most supportive queen you know and why? Who is the shadiest and what was it she said?
In my time in drag, one of the most supportive queens I have known is Ben DelaCreme. She’s been a true sister to me and has always had my back. She has always been real with me, telling me what I need to hear to be my best. Sometimes that involves building me up past my insecurities, and sometimes that means smacking me back down to Earth. I think shade is best when its got an air of truth and a strong sense of humor. Being malicious and mean isn’t being shady… it’s just malicious and mean. But pointed statements with a twinkle in your eye and a smirk on your lips, is true, lovely shade- and the queen of that is Sharon Needles.
If you were a Netflix Original Show – what type of show would you be? Dark drama? Camp Make Over-show? Or something else entirely? What would happen in the pilot episode?
I would definitely be a dark comedy- one that involves socially inept people trying to accomplish mundane day to day tasks, which they can’t complete because of their own ridiculous traits.
Why are events like Drag World so important for the community?
When you’re young and you feel like you’re alone in the world, the most amazing thing is finding a place where you belong and connect with other people your age. I was lucky to grow up in a city that had a thriving queer youth community, where I was meeting other people who shared the same core values and beliefs as me at a young age, even though my society was telling me that by being queer, I was abnormal. I think the reason these conventions are such a hit with the youth because they tell people that they are not alone in the world, and allows them to begin to find their tribe at a young age.
Drag World is happening in London – what area of London would you most like to explore and why?
I’ve been pretty content in SOHO, I have to admit. I’ve gotten to spend a lot of time in that area and I still feel like there’s plenty for me to discover.